Homeopathy Papers

Life and Reminiscences of Dr. Constantine Hering

Last modified on September 8th, 2012

Fascinating reminiscences of Dr. Constantine Hering, one of the giants of homeopathy. He authored a number of books including “The Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica” which took him fifty years. He was involved with proving 91 remedies and founded the first homeopathic institutions in the U.S.

Read Before the Minnesota Homeopathic Institute, May 9th 1917, at St Paul. Also before the International Hahnemannian Association. June 25, 1917, at Chicago.


Dr. Constantine Hering

In walking through the Louvre, in Paris, that greatest art gallery in the world, I was told by a guide that an artist could only hope to have a picture or statue within its walls after he had been dead thirty years. Of course, the reason is obvious. Judgment can be passed on true merit only when shorn of all personal prestige. The authors of some of the treasures placed therein such as the Venus de Milo, will never be known, but the works themselves are immortal. So it is with the great lifework of Constantine Hering.

Time in its passage only magnifies the profoundness and beauty of his labor, and unfolds to the student of medicine new truths that will become as immortal as the great works of art in the Louvre, created by the hand of a Michael Angelo or a Leonardo da Vinci. The works of Hering’s contemporaries in the Quaker City of forty years ago, such as Drs. Gross, Pancost, Agnew, DaCosta and Pepper are already covered with that dust of time which renders them curiosities on the museum shelf, but the works of Hering are free from dust and worn with much handling, and the sufferings of mankind are daily being mitigated by his genius. In order that you may understand this, I will pre-face my personal reminiscences of this great man, by giving a very brief sketch of his life.

Dr. Constantine Hering was born in Oschatz, Saxony, Germany, January 1st, 1800. His father Magister Karl Gottlieb Hering, was a musician and author, and was the originator of a simplified system of teaching music to children which was adopted by the schools in Germany. I have heard Dr. Hering relate how his father was seated at the organ of the church when the news was brought to him of the birth of a son, whereupon he played with all his might, “Nun danket alle Gott” Martin Luther’s great choral, heralding the advent of a new century and the birth of a son. At the age of eleven Constantine was sent to the Classical School of Zittau, where he made a large and valuable collection of minerals, herbaria, skulls, and bones of animals. Later he began his medical studies at the Surgical Academy of Dresden. While there, one day, he was looking over the books in an old second-hand book store, when a volume fell down at his feet. It was an old copy of Euclid, and he read in the introduction that, “Should a man desire to become a scientist, he must first become a thinker, and to become a thinker he must become a logician, and to become a logician, he must become a mathematician.” He then resolved to go back home and study mathematics and Greek, which he did until 1820. He then went to the University of Leipzig, where he studied seven courses of medicine. While there he was a pupil of Dr. Robbi, a celebrated surgeon in the French army. About this time Dr. Robbi was requested by a publishing house to write a pamphlet against Homoeopathy, which was to be its death blow. This he declined to do and referred the matter to his young friend Hering. Pursuant to this he began to study some works of Hahnemann, and this led to more investigation. The result of his search convinced him that Hahnemann was right, that “Simalia Similibus Curantur” is a great law of nature, and after two years of close study, he avowed his adherence to the new system. While in the university he received an infection of his finger while making an autopsy. After some days the wound became gangrenous and after the “regular” treatment, amputation was advised. A friend persuaded him to take ridiculously minute doses of arsenic for its homoeopathic action, and it saved his hand and cured him, which caused him to resolve to give his life to the great cause of Homoeopathy. Concerning this he said, The last veil that blinded my eyes to the light of the rising sun was rent and I saw the light of the new healing art dawn upon me in all its fullness. I owed to it far more than the preservation of a finger. To Hahnemann, who had saved my finger, I gave my whole hand and to the promulgation of his teachings not only my hand, but the entire man, body and soul.

He then entered the University of Wurzburg where the then great pathologist Schoenlein was teaching. On March the 23rd, 1826, he received his degree of Doctor of Medicine. His Thesis for graduation being “De Medicina Futura,” which he defended before the faculty of that great university.

THE MEDICINE OF THE FUTURE

After graduating he was appointed instructor in mathematics and natural science in the Blochman Institute in Dresden. After several months here, he was appointed to go to Surinam, South America, by the King of Saxony, to make researches in Zoology and Botany. He remained six years in Surinam and did a great work in natural science for the King. During his stay there, he continued his study of homoeopathy and practised it to some extent, besides writing articles for the Homoeopathic Archives. This latter proceeding was brought to the notice of the King, who at once directed Dr. Hering to attend exclusively to the duties of his appointment. By return mail, Dr. Hering sent his reports, accounts and specimens, resigned his position and began the practice of medicine in Parimaribo. He also continued his studies in natural history, and sent numerous interesting contributions of plants, reptiles and animals to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, where he was made a corresponding member.

While in Surinam, he went among the colony of lepers and made a study of leprosy, and did much to relieve their suffering. In 1830 he wrote, “Communications by letter from Parimaribo on the treatment of Leprosy with Homoeopathic Remedies,” and in 1831 he wrote a paper on, ‘The antipsoric remedies in their relation to Leprosy.” While here he began his historical studies of snakes, including the Lachesis trigonocephalus or South American Surukuku, a specimen of which he deposited in the museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. This serpent he captured after much difficulty and danger, one of his Arrowackian Indian helpers being bitten. It was here he first used radiant heat as an antidote to the poison of the serpent, since which time it has been acknowledged to be an antidoteto bites and stings of poisonous reptiles. After six years in Surinam, he sailed for home, via Salem, Massachusetts. His ship being partly wrecked upon the coast of Rhode Island, and finally put into Martha’s Vineyard in January 1833. He at once went to Philadelphia where he began the practice of medicine and where his home was for nearly half a century. When he landed on our shores he indeed found virgin soil in which to plant the great truths of homoeopathy. There were no text-books in the language of the country, no manuals of Materia Medica, or repertories, in fact, no literature in English from which a knowledge of homoeopathy could be obtained. There were no schools or colleges where the homoeopathic system of medicine was taught. There were a very few practitioners scattered over the eastern part of the country, trying to practise with the aid of Hahnemann’s works, which were all in German. It was here in the beginning of the year 1833 that Dr. Hering rolled up his sleeves and went to work, with what result, we shall see.

In Pennsylvania, at Allentown, he founded the first Homoeopathic Institution in the world, on April the l0th, 1835,-Hahnemann’s birthday. It was called the North American Academy of the Homoeopathic Healing Art. Dr. Hering delivered the inaugural address, his text being the words of Washington, “There is but one right way to seek the truth and steadily to pursue it.” He taught the principles of Hahnemann, practised them on the sick, wrote books and pamphlets, caused the German text books to be translated, so as to bring the great truths of Homoeopathy before all. His published work on “The Rise and Progress of Homoeopathy” had a large circulation.

In February, 1848, the Homoeopathic College of Pennsylvania was founded by Drs. Constantine Hering, Jacob Jeanes and Walter Williamson, Dr. Hering being elected Professor of Materia Medica on Sept. 7th, 1848. He was Professor of Institutes of Homoeopathy and Practice of Medicine from 1864-67, and of Institutes and Materia Medica from 1867-69. In 1869 the Homoeopathic College of Pennsylvania merged with the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia, Dr. Hering being professor of Institutes and Materia Medica from 1869 to 1871. He was Dean from 1867 to 1871, and Emeritus Professor of Institutes and Materia Medica from 1876 to 1880. He was the first president of the American Institute of

His great life work was the Homoeopathic Materia MedicaAn index of his writings shows some three hundred and twenty-five articles written mostly on remedies and indications for their use. He either edited or wrote some eighty-nine books or pamphlets. His “Domestic Physician” passed through fourteen editions in Germany, seven in America, two in England, and was translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Danish, Swedish and Russian. The motto upon the title page was, ‘The Greatest Triumph of a Science is when it becomes the Common property of the People, and thus contributes to the Common Weal.” Among the standard books in daily use by homoeopathic physicians are “Hering’s Analytical Therapeutics” or “Symptoms of the Mind;” Bering’s “Condensed Materia Medica”; Hering’s “Complete Materia Medica,” and “Gross’ Comparative Materia Medica,” to which he devoted an entire year, translating from the
German and revising it. His great masterpiece was “The Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica.” For more than fifty years he was engaged in preparing the material for this work. All the provings made by himself, his pupils and friends, and all of the carefully made provings of others in the profession were placed in his collection. From this voluminous material, however, only the best was selected for his great work of ten volumes.

He died while arranging volume three, though the manuscript was complete for the entire work. This was carried out and edited by Drs. Calvin B. Knerr, Charles G. Raue and Charles Mohr; after which a complete repertory of the entire ten volumes prepared by Dr. Calvin B. Knerr, making Dr. Hering’s “Materia Medica” readily accessible for use by the busy practitioner. His work in proving drugs was greater than that of any other physician, and the method in conducting a proving is given in a pamphlet of thirty pages entitled, “Suggestions for the proving of Drugs on the Healthy,” being a report of the Committee appointed for that purpose by the American
Provers Union, Philadelphia, 1853. The officers of the Union were twenty-four of the most prominent homoeopathic physicians of that time. The pamphlet is divided into seven articles and goes into particulars in a masterly manner. (It should be reprinted and every homoeopathic physician have a copy.)

Hering and his co-laborers followed the rules laid down there. Think of the labor required to prove a single drug, and then consider what it meant for Dr. Hering to prove ninety-one drugs. Hahnemann proved sixty-four drugs. As to his works, let us at least give a partial list of them which will serve to show the boundless activity of his fertile brain. Before leaving the Saxony legation he had proven, Mezereum, Sabadilla, Sabina, Colchiciun, Plumb, ac, Paris quadr., Cantharis, Sodium, and partly, Antimonium tart., Argentum met.,
Aristolochia, Qematis erecta, Bellad., Caltha palustris, Opiimi, Ruta, Tanacet., Viola tricolor, etc.

During his stay in South America his provings extended to Lachesis, Theridion curass, Askalabotes, Caladium seg., Jambos, Jatropha, Solanum, Spigelia, Vanilla, Alumina, Acid phosph. and Psorinum. After his arrival in Philadelphia he either himself proved
or superintended the experiments and editing of the provings of the following medicines : Mephitis, Ictodes foetidus, Crotal., Hydrophobinum, Brucea, Calcarea phosph. (acid and basic), Hippomanes, tastor equorum, Kalmia, Viburnum, Phytolacca, Gelsemium, Gymnocladus, Chlorum, Bromium, Ac. fluor, Ac. oxal., Ferrum met., Cobalt, Niccol., Oxygen, Ozone, Thallium, Tellurium, Palladiimi, Platinum, Osmium, Lithiiun, Glonoine, Apis mel, Cepa, Aloes, Millefol., Baryta carb., Nux mosch. and Formica.

His great masterpiece was Lachesis, the poison of the Lachesis trigonocephalus, one of the largest and most poisonous serpents of South America, the first sepecimen of which he obtained on July 28th, 1828. This gave him a world renowned fame. It comprises eighty-eight pages in the Guiding Symptoms, recording three thousand and eight hundred Symptoms. He also proved hydrophobinum from the saliva of the mad dog, years before Pasteur did his work on the mad dog poison. His provings of Apis mellifica have been of immense value to the profession. He proved nitro glycerine and gave it the name of Glonoine, which has been accepted by all schools of medicine. He was the first to propose triturations and dilutions in the decimal scale instead of in the centesimal scale used by Hahnemann.
He was a student and admirer of those great minds which have led the world in scientific thinking, and he read their works in the original. Leonardo da Vinci was a favorite, but his special hero was the great Paracelsus of whose works he had the finest collection extant. He had the old book stores of Europe ransacked for these works, many of which were immense volumes bound with covers of old sheepskin on which were the writings of the monks before printing was invented. Many of these written in Latin had numerous interlineations made by Dr. Hering in German. Some were written in German and other languages.

After Dr. Hering’s death, the United States Government offered a large sum for these works, but they were secured by, and deposited in, the library of the Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia. The catalogue describes it as being a rare and curious collection of the different editions of the works of Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, commonly called Paracelsus. It consists of one hundred and eighty-nine titles of books, eighteen volumes of bound pamphlets, and a number of manuscripts about Paracelsus written by Dr. Hering. There are also thirty pictures of Paracelsus, of his residence, his study, and a photograph of his skull. It was Paracelsus (1490 to 1541) who said, ‘The apothecaries are so false and dishonest that they lead the know-nothing doctors by the nose. If they say, This is so and so’ Dr. Wiseacre says, ‘Yes, master apothecary, that is true.’ Thus one fool cheats the other. Apothecary ‘Quid pro quo’ gives to Dr. Wiseacre ‘Merdam pro balsamo.’ God help the poor patients that come under their hands.” How well have
the traditions of the apothecaries been kept up to this day! The Paracelsus system was a crude homoeopathy, but was not equal to Hahnemann’s. Paracelsus said, “Likes must be driven out by likes. What makes jaundice, that also cures jaundice and all its species.” In like manner, “The medicine that shall cure paralysis must proceed from that which causes it.” He had a great partiality for extremely minute doses.

In his book, “On the causes and origin of Lues Gallica”, Paracelsus compares the medicinal power of the drug to fire. As a single spark can ignite a great heap of wood, indeed can set a whole forest in flames, in a like manner can a very small dose of medicine overpower a great disease.” Paracelsus rails at the compounding of several medicines in one prescription and exposes the folly of composite recipes with a vigor, logic and satirical humor not inferior to that displayed by Hahnemann. He attacked the absurd methods of treatment prevalent in his time. Paracelsus was the first to deliver scientific lectures in the German tongue – before him they were delivered in Latin. He was the first physician who looked upon surgery as belonging properly to the healing art. Dr. Hering had
copies of the only two books printed during the lifetime of Paracelsus.

On March the 23rd, 1876, the Homoeopathic profession celebrated the fiftieth, or Golden Anniversary of Dr. Hering’s graduation in medicine. It was held at the Union League Qub at Philadelphia. Eminent physicians from many places assembled to do him honor. The following testimonial was presented to him by the physicians of Philadelphia.

THE testimonial:

“To our Revered and Beloved Colleague, Constantine Hering, Who, having received the Degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Wurzburg, March 23rd, 1826, to-day, by the favor of Heaven, witnesses the Fiftieth Anniversary of that occasion, we, the Homoeopathic Physicians of Philadelphia, in Mass Meeting assembled, offer our affectionate congratulations and good wishes.
To his exceptional intellectual ability, untiring industry, broad culture and liberal spirit, Homoeopathy preeminently
owes her firm establishment and vigorous growth in America. The year of his Jubilee finds him still occupied, in the same spirit, in labors for the same end.

Passing in review the forty-three years of his fellow-citizenship with us, we regard with grateful admiration his labors
in the broad field of science, his unselfish devotion to the advancement of the Art of Healing, his generous demeanor towards his fellow-workers, and the pure record of his spotless life.

May a kind Providence long spare him to a profession which he honors, and to colleagues in whose heart he is cherished”.

Attest:

A. R. Thomas, M.D., President.

Robt. J. McQatchey, M.D., Secretary.

Jacob Jeanes, M.D.,

A. W. Koch, M.D.,

C Neidhard, M.D.,

H. N. Guernsey, M.D.,

C G. Raue, M.D.,

Richard Gardiner, M.D.,

Committee of Signers.

Honorary diplomas were conferred on him by the University of Boston and the Homoeopathic Colleges of New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Qeveland, Chicago and St. Louis. Also the Degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of the State of New York. Toasts were responded to by Dr. P. P. Wells, Dr. H. N. Guernsey and Dr. Carroll Dunham. Each vied to find expressions of encomium and sentiments fitting to bestow on one so deserving. Such men as Drs. Samuel Lilienthal, John F. Gray and A. R. Thomas, placed laurels on his brow, and men like Horace Howard

Furness, the great Shakespearian scholar, and Henry C. Carey the great political economist, laid garlands at his feet. His modesty was so great, and his shyness so complete, that he could only tolerate the tribute with the modesty characteristic of genius. “I am nothing, God is great” he would often say when deluged with praise for some famous cure he had made. Hering’s connection with Hahnemann was interesting. He told me that he had never talked with Hahnemann personally, but he had seen him on the streets of Leipsic on several occasions, when a student there. His correspondence with Hahnemann was considerable and he showed me some of the letters, a few of which are published in “Bradford’s Life of Hahnemann.” In that of August the 16th, 1829, Hahnemann said, “Dear Colleague, your dear note was not the smallest gift which was made me upon the l0th of August. Oh, that I could,before I leave this earth, clasp you in my arms to testify to you my joy at the unexampled zeal which you so efficiently bestow upon the restoration of the miserable, and the extension of the beneficent science with such high courage.” He ends the letter with, “Continue to prosecute your work as heretofore until it be time to return again to Europe in good health, and hold dear your true friend, Samuel Hahnemann.”

In July, 1833, he wrote, “To Dr. Hering, President of the Hahnemann Society of Philadelphia. Dear Good Hering, good luck to you in the land of liberty, where you can do all that is good without let or hindrance. There you are in your element. I have no design to stimulate you on behalf of our beneficent art, that would be pouring oil on the fire. You should rather be restrained, so that you could not injure yourself, and you should take great care of your health, which is precious to all true friends of Homoeopathy.” He ends the letter with, “I beg for your continued friendship and love.
Yours truly, Samuel Hahnemann.”

After Hahnemann arrived in Paris he wrote a very long and interesting letter, from Rue de Milan, dated Oct. 3rd, 1836 addressing it, To Dr. Hering, Truest and most zealous propagator of our art.” He says, “I thank you for the Rhus vemix and Cistus Canadensis you sent me. But I would more particularly request you to send me the third trituration of Lachesis and Crot., for the knowledge of which we are indebted to America and to you. How much have we not to thank you for besides …. Our good God will certainly bless your great undertaking. I know Him. May you continue to enjoy the best of health for the advantage of mankind, and may your dear family also prosper. I and my beloved wife send you our kindest regards, and I beg to be remembered to all your fellow workers, Samuel Hahnemann.”

In speaking of Hahnemann, Hering told me that he loved and honored him for his great discovery “Similia Similibus Curantur,” for his iron will and indefatigable energy in proving drugs, for his careful observation of a clear differentiation of remedies; and he said many times, “If our school ever gives up the strict inductive method of Hahnemann, we are lost and deserve to be mentioned only as a caricature in medicine.” At the same time he said, “From the time of his first investigations in Homoeopathy (1821) to that time (1879)it has never accepted any of the theories of Hahnemann’s Organon.”

After Hahnemann’s death in 1843, Madame Hahnemann invited Dr. Hering to come to Paris to take his practice, but he declined the invitation, as he preferred to remain in this country. Dr. Hering retained an old German custom to have a couple of students from the College reside in his family to keep in touch with the work and progress of the College. These places where much sought after, and happy he to whose lot fell the choice. I resided in his family during three courses of lectures, two winter terms and one spring term, from the fall of 1877 to the spring of 1879, and was also a frequent caller on him while I was resident physician in the Homoeopathic Hospital of Philadelphia until December 1879, when I went to New York City as resident physician in the Ward’s Island Hospital. The other students who were there during part of this time were Wm. B. Van Lennep, T. D. Koons, L. J. Knerr and John
Cooper.

Dr. Hering’s house was located at 112 and 114 North 12th Street, a large double “Philadelphia house” of red brick, three stories high, with white blinds and white marble steps. There was a row of trees in front and an inclosed garden in the rear with trees and flowers, where the family often took dinner during the spring and summer months. On entering you came into a large hall, on the right of which was a large reception room; back of which was a large consultation room or library, furnished substantially and containing many curios given to Dr. Hering, illustrating the history of Homoeopathy, such as a fine portrait of Jenichen, his right arm bared, showing the great muscular development due to making his high potencies.

On the left of the hall the front room was a prescription room, containing cases of medicine and books. Back of this was a stair way and dining room. The second story had a large parlor, a large nursery, Dr. Hering’s study, and some bedrooms. The third story had a number of bedrooms, – mine being the third story front.

Dr. Hering’s study, in which he spent a large part of his time, was about 12 x 24 feet in size. It contained a couch where he sat at his literary work and where he slept at night. In front of his couch was his desk, on which he wrote and on which was a display of papers and paraphernalia never before or since seen. Sometimes Mrs. Hering would endeavor to arrange things differently, but Dr. Hering would say, “Ach, their order is my disorder.” He always wrote with a quill pen and blue ink. The walls of the room were covered with shelves from floor to ceiling and these were filled with manuscripts of his many books and pamphlets, – all written in his own handwriting. Such a herculean work never has been accomplished by any homoeopathic physician.

His daily occupation was about as follows : After sleeping on the couch at night, he awoke at three o’clock, and sometimes when he was “lazy”, as he said, “Would sleep until four o’clock.” He pulled a little chain over his desk to light his gas, which was arranged over a semi globe of water to throw a strong light on his desk beneath. Then he pulled another chain to light his little gas stove on which was his chocolate, ready to be cooked. This he drank, with a biscuit or rusk, and then went to work on that great masterpiece, “The Guiding Symptoms.”

The manuscript of the work had been completed, but it had to be re-arranged, “boiled down” and revised.

The name “Guiding Symptoms” was chosen after much thought and discussion. He said to us students, “I want to make it the shortest way to selecting a remedy.” “When a traveler loses his way he comes to a guide board, with a hand pointing or guiding the right way, – so it shall be ‘Guiding Symptoms.’ ”

The day he died he was at work on Calcarea carb., or ostrearum as he called it, as it was made from the oyster shell. So here at his desk he worked daily from three o’clock until eight, while the great city slept about him, to alleviate the suffering and pain and anguish of the millions yet unborn. At eight o’clock he would have a light breakfast served in his room, and look over the morning paper, always with a red and blue pencil in his hand. Things he approved of got a blue mark and those he did not, a red mark. After he was through with the paper the other members of the family eagerly looked for his marks or remarks.

Every morning Dr. Hering had an early caller. Between nine and ten o’clock Dr. Raue, who might be called “the beloved disciple,” came to see him. This he did for thirty years, rain or shine, and he always brought sunshine. Such affection and devotion is seldom seen between two men. Charles Gottlieb Raue, like Dr. Hering, was a master mind – he was the author of the standard work on Pathology and Therapeutics. Also of Raue’s “Annual Record,” from 1870 to 1875, also of “Psychology as a Natural Science Applied to the Solution
of Occult Psychic Phenomena,” which is regarded by meta-physicians as one of the greatest works of its kind.

Drs. Hering and Raue were professors together in the faculty of the College, and it is needless to say each was interested in the other’s work. Many times I have, in passing, peeked into the study and seen those two grayheads absorbed in such earnest conversation that they were oblivious to all else. What learned talks and what great ideas were lost for the want of a recorder! Once I went to Dr. Raue’s office on an errand and he was just through with a patient, and showing him out. The patient said, “Doctor, what is this medicine for, my heart, my lungs, my liver, or kidneys?” Dr. Raue replied, “That medicine is for Mr. Miller. Good day.”

Raue gone, Hering would again turn to his endless task until about ten, when he would see his office patients, then make his calls until two o’clock, when he would have dinner. After dinner a short nap, after which he would receive calls, or hold consultations with some of his associates, such as Drs. Lippe, or Guernsey, or Raue, or Farrington, or Korndoerfer and see more office patients. While riding in his carriage from house to house, he would continue his literary work. I can see him now, sitting in his carriage, his driver in front and he with book and pencil in hand, absorbed in some study, maybe making notes on his cases, or writing his observations for the benefit of humanity. At six thirty he would be ready for supper, when the family and students would assemble.

Imagine, if you will, a long table, Dr. Hering sitting at one end and Mrs. Hering at the other, the two students at his left hand. Dr. C. B. Knerr (his son-in-law), and any visiting physician, which there frequently was, at his right hand. The other places taken by his children, Walter, Carl, Hermann, Melitta (Mrs. Knerr) and Hildegard, and occasionally Rudolph. The food served was the best the market afforded, and I shall never forget those lentil soups, those delicious gravies, or that good old German cooking. And one would always remember dear Mrs. Hering, with her pleasant smile and sweet solicitude to see every one properly helped. Dr. Hering always seemed to have a good appetite and always had a bottle of red or white wine, of German importation or American growth, which he greatly enjoyed. In draining the bottle, first laying it on its side, he would count between the last drops, eins, zwei, drei, etc., until he counted twelve between the last two drops, saying, “You must never waste a drop of wine, for it takes seven drops of sweat in labor to make it.”

“My old teacher in wine drinking taught me that.” He would say, “Wine is the greatest brain food, it contains phosphorus in the best proportion for real brain nourishment.” “The Lord turned water into wine, into fermented wine, and to say he turned it into unfermented grape juice is a crime against the Holy Ghost,” at which he would sometimes bring his fist down on the table, shaking it like a small earthquake. As a rule he never allowed his dinner to be interrupted by patients or callers, and but one exception can I remember. When the servant brought a card with a message, “Dr. Guernsey calls and would like to see Dr. Hering when he is through
With his dinner.” Dr. Hering sent word back, “When Dr. Guernsey calls. Dr. Hering is through with his dinner.”

After supper, while sipping a little wine, it was his pleasure to converse with us students and doctors, the other members of the family retiring. The subjects chosen were often suggested by some question, such as, “What were the clinics at College today?

What did Farrington or Komdoerfer lecture about?” Or maybe something of interest that he had met in his work in the study. Whatever the subject was, he would discuss it, or elaborate it in a masterly manner, and hold our attention for an hour or more. He had a way of leaving the main subject and relating some story or anecdote pertaining to it which in itself would be so interesting that one would almost forget the main subject, but he never forgot to come back to it.

He would tell us of his experiences back in his university days in Europe, or in South America, with his Arrowackian Indians. An anecdote which he occasionally related was about the patient who was in search of three physicians who would agree on his case. This was published in the British Journal of Homoeopathy in 1846, so I will give it as there told:

“Whilst traveling in Germany,” says the Doctor, “I one day came to a village, the proprietor of which invited me to spend the night at his house, in place of putting up at the inn. He was a rich old gentleman, a great original, always an invalid, having ennui and good wine to a great extent. Learning that I was a young’ medical man, about to commence my travels, he told me he would sooner make his son a hangman than a doctor. On my expressing surprise at the observation, he produced a large book, saying, that it was not twenty years since he first became ill in body but not in mind; that two doctors of celebrity, whom he then consulted, had quarrelled
about his disease, and that consequently, he had employed neither of them nor their medicines, but that he had registered the affair in his book. Then, after finding that the disease did not get better, he set out on his travels, resolved, if he could find three doctors who perfectly agreed upon his case without any hesitation,’ to allow himself to be treated by them, but never by any other. For this purpose he had consulted at first all physicians of any reputation, and afterwards others whose names were less known; but having, in spite of all his sufferings, never abandoned his first resolution, and keeping an exact account of every consultation in a book for the purpose, he never succeeded in finding any who agreed respecting his case. Accordingly, not having followed the advice of any, he still remained an invalid, but he was still alive. As may be well supposed, the book cost him a pretty sum of money.

“This book had the appearance of a ledger in large folio, and was kept in the form of tables. In the first column were the names of the physicians, amounting to 477 ; in the second, those of the disease, with explanations concerning its nature; of these there were 313, differing importantly from each other; in the third column were the remedies proposed, these consisted of 832 prescriptions, containing in all 1097 remedies. The sum total appeared at the end of each page. “He took up a pen, and said coolly, ‘Won’t you prescribe something for me ?’ But having no inclination to do so, I only asked if Hahnemann was not in his list. With a smile he
turned to No. 301, name of the disease O, remedy prescribed O. That was the wisest of the lot,’ he cried, ‘for he said that the name of the disease did not concern him, and that the name of the remedy did not concern me, but that the cure was the essential point.’ ‘But why,’ I inquired, ‘did you not allow him to treat you?’ ‘Because,’ he replied, ‘he was one, and I must have three who agree.’

“I asked him if he were willing to sacrifice some hundred francs for an experiment, in which case I should be able to mention not three, but thirty-three physicians living in the neighborhood, and in countries and parts of the world widely separate, who should all be of one opinion. He expressed his doubts, but at the same time resolved to undertake the trial. We then made out a description of the disease, and when the copies were finished, we sent them to thirty-three homoeopathic practitioners. He inclosed a Louis d’or in each letter, begging each physician to name the remedies which were capable of curing, or at least of alleviating his disease.

“A short time since I received a cask of Rhenish, of the vintage of 1822. I send you wine of the year 1822 he wrote, ‘because twenty-two physicians agreed respecting my case. I thereby perceive that there is certainty in some things in this world. I have got various works on the subject, in order to gain information upon it. Out of about two hundred medicines, twenty-two physicians have fixed upon the same remedy. One could not expect more. The physician nearest me has got me under his care, and I send you the wine that I may not be tempted to drink too much from joy at seeing my health improving from day to day.”

A favorite subject with Dr. Hering was Our Nosodes (disease-products) like Psorinum, Ambra grisea, etc. I have often heard him say that the study and research of the disease-products was destined to open an immense field in therapeutics; then with a sigh he would say, “Some of you young men must take it up.”

In Dudgeon’s Lectures, published in 1853, page 143, Dr. R. E. Dudgeon says, “It was Dr. Constantine Hering who introduced and gave the first impluse to Isopathy, for we find him in 1830, proposing as a remedy for hydrophobia the saliva of the rabid dog; for small pox, the matter from the variolous pustules ; for psora, the matter of itch.” He asks, “May we not expect, if this doctrine be true, that we shall find the specific remedy for every epidemic pestilence in the first case of it that breaks out, and the matter from this will check the disease in all the rest?”

In 1833 Dr. Hering wrote a long paper in which he extols the efficiency of the prepared itch matter, which he now calls psorine. He found that a globule of the thirtieth potency is the best dose to give and that it is most expedient in every case, and where possible, to give the patient Psorinum prepared from his own body. In other words, what he calls auto psorine. Under psora, Dr. Hering included many varieties of cutaneous diseases. But greater discoveries are revealed in this wonder disclosing essay :

Dr. Hering states that he has ascertained that the fluids and solids of healthy individuals (of course duly potentized) have a very powerful action on the human subject. He asserts that all morbid products of whatever kind exert a powerful influence on the diseases that produce them. He mentions leucorrhoeal matter as being curative of leucorrhoea; gleet matter of gleet; phthisine of phthisis; syphiline of syphilis. He admits that all these isopathic preparations cannot be regarded as absolute specifics, but only as chronic intermediate remedies, which serve as it were, to stir up the disease and render the reaction to the homoeopathic remedy, subsequently administered, more permanent and effective. You see he anticipated the great work in serums, vaccines and toxines
done years after he was dead and gone.

Dr. Hering was a great worker with the microscope, and he owned one of the largest and best, made by Zentmayer in Philadelphia. I think he told me that it cost, with accessories, $750.00. He made an especial study of the crystalline formation in the organic and inorganic world. He demonstrated that the animal poisons, such as the virus of snakes, the Apis Mellifica, the Buforana, and Psorinum had their own particular crystalline formation, showing their indentity as differing from other albumens. He once said to me, “I have seen myriads of minute formations that have never been classified or understood, but they all have their place in medical science,
and if I had another life to live, I would devote it to them, but I must now go on with my principal work, the ‘Guiding Symptoms.”

He had his own particular original manner of observing and interpreting the phenomena of nature. For instance, he said, “Everywhere in nature we observe spirals, the earth revolves around the sun in spirals, the forces in growing plants are in spirals. The forces throughout the body are manifested in spirals. For example, the blood in the arteries and veins, the feces in the intestines and the urine through the urethra move in spirals. The lightning in a storm seems to be zig-zag, but in reality it moves in spirals, the zigzag motion being an optical illusion.”

He would say, “If you ask a question of nature, and ask it in the right way, you will always get an answer. Never accept a thing until you know it is true, and never deny a thing until you know it is false. There is a great gulf between denying and accepting anything in science. There is no such thing as belief in science. Either a thing is so, or it is not so. The square described on the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides,’ is so beyond belief. To say, To believe so and so has no weight in science.”

He looked on his art as God given and all must have the benefit at little cost. He said that every homoeopathic physician should prove a few remedies on himself to appreciate how to prescribe. He said that the best results in prescribing were to be obtained by close individualization, and not by generalization.

Dr. Hering often declared that a knowledge of the combination of symptoms is what physicians most stand in need of. In practice he never made use of the whole range of symptoms in any remedy, but only of particular combinations of them. Every remedy contains the indications of a vast variety of diseases. The proper mode of studying the whole Materia Medica consists in making one’s self completely master of a few medicines, and afterwards of those most nearly connected with them.” Symptoms of seeming little importance might be the keynote to some remedy under which we might find a true picture of the case. The remedy may cure many symptoms not given under that remedy, showing that the provings may not have been complete. He then told of a serious case where the patient had a desire and longing to eat charcoal, which indicated Cicuta, and Cicuta cured the patient of a very serious malady ; but he said, “We must always try to get at least three legs to the stool, if possible, that we may sit comfortably.”

His conversations were so wonderful and interesting. I asked him one evening if I might invite some of my fellow students to come in after supper, and have him talk to us all. He replied, “Why, yes, if you think it is worthwhile;” and so I invited the Minnesota contingent and a few others, among whom were S. P. Starritt, Geo. E. Ricker, W. E. and H. C. Leonard, and Mark Edgerton. Dr. R. J. McClatchey, our Professor of Practice, said in a eulogy on Dr. Hering, “Those of us who had the privilege of a personal intercourse with Dr. Hering knew well what an instructive and ever fascinating conversationalist he was.”

He told us about Lachesis, his struggle to obtain the poison, how he adjusted the pointed stick between the open jaws of the living serpent with one hand, and squeezing the reptile’s poison sacs with a pair of forceps in the other, and catching the drops of virus in a watch glass. He told us how he obtained the saliva of the mad dog for his experiments; of his experiences with the yellow fever epidemic; of the use of sulphur in the stockings to prevent cholera.

Dr. Hering took little time for recreation, but once a week, on Sunday aftenoon, he invited some friends to join him. In one of his reception rooms he had a large mahogany round table, and like King Arthur of Britain of old, sat the Saxon Dr. Hering with his friends, “and in his mien, conmand sat throned serene.” See who his friends were: – there was Dr. Augustus W. Koch, his old friend whose son, Dr. Richard Koch, was an associate professor; Dr. Charles G. Raue; Prof. Oswald Seidensticker, of the University of Pennsylvania; Mr. Herman Faber, artist and designer; Dr. Horace Howard Furness, the great Shakespearian scholar and critic, author
of a work in eighteen volumes; Drs. Lippe and Trites, the Astronomer Hilgard and many other congenial spirits. Coffee was served, Havana cigars and long pipes were supplied, and the general conversation commenced. Subjects of art, science and literature were discussed, interspersed with wit and humor. The philosophies of Kant, Hegal, Schopenhauer, Plato, and Spencer, Ancient and modem, were disposed of. The coffee was sipped, the smoke curled up, making castles in the air of the future greatness and secure happiness of this great Nation and its people.

A painting of Hering at his Round Table as I saw it, would be the admiration of all. Dr. Hering was a great lover of music of the kind that charms, such as our Oberhofer gives. Frequent musicales were held at his home; all of his family were musical. Some
members of the Maennerchor Concordia and Saengerbund, German singing societies, often came. The compositions of Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Bach, Haydn, and Mendelsohn were often rendered, – Dr. Hering listening from his study. His favorite composition was Beethoven’s great Septette. And then there was the little German street band that used to come some mornings and play the German melodies he loved so well. He would stop his work and send down a piece of money, saying, “They do us some good and we must do likewise.” How did he prescribe medicines? One might answer, very nearly as Hahnemann directed. He said, “There is an individuality in everything that the Lord has made. You cannot substitute one medicine for another. To mix medicines is a crime. Alternating is the half-way house to mixing. To make poor prescriptions when much driven is excusable, but the questions which must be kept freshly in mind are, what is your aim? What are you striving for? The homoeopathic physician once he adopts the too-much-trouble creed he is lost.”

It was certainly not his creed. His rules of practice, “golden rules” he called them, were “Learn to observe; Learn to prove; learn to examine the sick; learn to select the remedy; learn how to repeat and how to change remedies; learn how to wait; learn how to profit by experience.”

His method of examining a patient was an art. He took notes on his cases, full notes, and then would repair to his prescription room where he would consult his repertories: his Jahr, his Boeninghausen, and then his Materia Medica. His remedy once selected he would generally give in a high potency, way up in the thousandths sometimes. He had small envelopes with printed directions on the outside. Each contained six powders of saccharum lactis, one of them containing some pellets of the indicated remedy and marked with a star. The directions were to dissolve the star powder in water and take 1 teaspoonful four times or more a day, and so go on each succeeding day with the other powders. You see they took the medicine only one day, then placebos the succeeding days for a week, when they would report. If improvement, marked improvement, resulted, they would get another envelope of blank powders for another week. If improvement stopped they would get another powder of the same medicine of a higher potency, and as he would say, “High and higher still, to heaven.”

If the patient was worse, a new remedy had to be selected, generally a remedy having some relationship to the first. Dr. Hering did not confine himself exclusively to high potencies or single doses. In certain cases he repeated his remedies frequently. In chronic diseases the interval that elapsed between the doses might be two, four, seven, eleven or sixteen days. In acute cases he says, “The dose might be repeated as often as every hour, or even every five or ten minutes.” He never alternated remedies, but if the symptoms
suddenly changed, he would often change his remedy. His success was phenomenal. Long standing chronic maladies yielded to his treatment. So-called incurable patients were cured by him. Patients came to him from the world over and were improved or cured.

I will relate one case of his marvelous prescribing: One evening in the summer of 1879, while resident physician in the hospital, I called on Dr. Hering. “Come in, come in and sit down. Well, what is new at the hospital?” I replied, “Nothing startling, Doctor, a poor fellow came in, a charity patient who has been at the University Hospital and at the Pennsylvania Hospital, and both Da Costa and Pepper have diagnosed his disease ‘Locomotor Ataxia’ and beyond help.” “So Da Costa and Pepper can do nothing? Bring him over
to me.” I replied, “He is beyond relief and only a poor weaver and has no money to pay a doctor.” He replied, “Oh, damn the money; bring him over here tomorrow at five. I must see him,” he said with the fire of youth in his dark eyes and the stroke of his fist on his desk. And so I did.

With notebook in hand, he began asking symptoms and modalities, beginning with the patient’s ancestors; – and such a history as he took! He examined him thoroughly from top to toe in every possible manner. In the meantime Dr. Hering’s reception room was filling with patients and Dr. Knerr motioned me to step into the hall, where he said, “Try and get that patient out, as Dr. Hering still has much important work to do.” After an hour’s examination. Dr. Hering said, closing his book, “Bring him over again tomorrow.” The next day Dr. Hering spent another hour with the poor weaver and then said, “Bring him over again tomorrow.” After continuing the examination for another hour, closing his book. Dr. Hering said to me, “You come alone tomorrow.” I said, “What remedy shall I give
him?” He answered, “I cannot tell until I have studied it more.” The next day I returned and he had a sort of condensed summing up of the case written in German, and after more conversation he went to his prescription room and brought me an envelope, with the remark, “That is Rhus, 65 m, give it to him and report in a week.”

The poor fellow had to be taken to Hering in a wheel chair and could only take a few steps with the assistance of two canes. His condition was very distressing. To make a long story short. Dr. Hering treated him for about four months, when the poor weaver walked out of the hospital without canes, seemingly on the road to complete recovery.

One hot summer afternoon in 1879, I went to Dr. Hering’s study, where he sat with a box at his side, about three feet long, two feet wide and a foot deep, full of clippings, some taken from Journals, and others in his own handwriting. I asked him what in the world does the box contain, and he replied, “That is our Arsenicum. It all must be arranged for the ‘Guiding Symptoms.’ What a task it was! It would make any ordinary man quail, but not him. On he worked until this remedy was finished and published before he was called to receive the great fee from a Higher Power for his work of philanthropy.

Concerning Dr. Bering’s opinion of the relationship of the schools of medicine, he said, “I have no fear for Homoeopathy. We shall mix with other schools and I am pretty sure that the other schools will come to us. They at first tried to kill us by derision, ridiculing our small doses, then they tried to ignore us, calling us irregular, neither of which profited them much. The next step they will try to absorb us, before they are ready to digest us. Here is the great danger. The Homoeopathic Materia Medica is destined to become a natural science. The progress we have made in our Materia Medica towards a natural science is much greater than has ever been the case with any other natural science in the same time. They all have ages behind them. We want more men like Farrington,
who followed in the footsteps of Gross. We want careful observers, more verified symptoms, subjective and objective, so that a remedy can be chosen with greater certainty. Then will the old school come to us, and until this is done we must not give up our identity, or drop the title Homoeopathy, or we may endanger the great cause for which Hahnemann and the rest of us have worked.”

Dr. Hering believed that not only should subjective symptoms play an important part in the proving of drugs and in the selecting of a remedy, but he also believed that all pathological, microscopical and chemical conditions should have their place as objective symptoms in proving drugs and in selecting remedies. It was the contention between him and Dr. Lippe regarding the chair of pathology, that caused the split in the old college, Lippe contending that pathology played a very unimportant part. How pleased would Dr. Hering have been had he lived until now to see that the great work now being done in serums, toxines, vaccines, infection, immunity and serum therapy, is only proving the great truths of Homoeopathy, and is gradually being acknowledged by the leading
scientists and physicians of today.

The family life of Dr. Hering was ideal. Dear Mrs. Hering, the good Christian mother, was everywhere, looking after the health and happiness of all. Dr. Hering was her idol, she knew and felt the great work he was doing and did everything for his comfort to aid him in his task. She was a loving, devoted mother, an earnest Christian and a warm friend. His sons and daughters honored, loved and aided him, and all had their reward for honoring their father and mother, for their days have been long and full of happiness and prosperity.

His son Walter has printed his great work, “The Guiding Symptoms,” in ten volumes, as well as other of his books. He has endowed the Hahnemann Medical College and has kept intact his father’s manuscripts and relics in the Constantine Hering Building, a monument to the memory of a beloved and worthy father, erected on the site of the old homestead. The homoeopathic profession is greatly indebted to him. In his religious belief Hering was a Swedenborgian, and while in his latter years he seldom attended church, the great
Swedenborgian minister, the Rev. Dr. Chauncey Giles, often called at the house. Dr. Hering once said to the late Rev. Mitchell of St. Paul, “There is only one thing better than a homoeopathic doctor and that is a Swedenborgian minister.”

He was a true Christian, the existence of a God was with him an axiom as well sustained as any in mathematics. He believed in a free will. He had a firm faith in a future existence. He asked, “What would this great world of the Creator be if there were no hereafter?” His motto was, “Love truth because it is truth, and do good because it is good.” His interest in hospital work was great and he contributed much to it in many ways. When the Homoeopathic Hospital Fair was organized in 1869, he insisted that a prominent place be assigned for a Children’s Table at the Fair, asserting that no good would come of the enterprise, were the children left out. He poetically said, “They having lately arrived from Heaven, have the angels still with them, and they are ever nearer to Heaven than their elders.”

About the middle of December, 1879, 1 made my last call on Dr. Hering, before going to the Ward’s Island New York Hospital. He was in his study working on the Materia Medica. He bade me welcome and asked all about the hospital, where I had visited some time before. He enjoined upon me to practise the homoeopathy of Hahnemann, as it would give the best results for the hospital records; then he said, “Of course a large hospital like that has many deaths. Now observe if death takes place when the ocean tide is going out, for I have long had a theory that death occurs when the tide is going out, and births occur when the tide is coming in, that is, the
lunar and solar influences may control vital forces as they do the ocean tides.” Let me say just here that many times while at the hospital I noticed that death nearly always took place when the tide was going out, as I could see the direction of
the flow from the hospital windows. Were Dr. Hering alive it would be a great satisfaction for him to know that this hospital, since named the Metropolitan Hospital, of New York City, is the largest general hospital in the United States, and is entirely under homoeopathic management, having over two thousand patients, seven hundred and sixty-nine employees, a house staff of thirty-one physicians, a medical board of twenty-four physicians, and an assistant visiting staff of forty-four physicians, and it has
some forty buildings valued at $6,250,000.00.

In parting, Dr. Hering gave me a photograph of himself with his autograph, also a medallion of Hahnemann, designed by sculptor David of Paris, which Hahnemann presented to him in 1840. And so I bade my kind old friend farewell, never to see him again until his hands were folded in their last earthly repose.

Dr. Hering died July 23rd, 1880, of paralysis of the heart, as shown by the post mortem examination made by Dr. A. R. Thomas. Dr. Bigler described his passing as follows: “That evening the Doctor seemed to be entirely well, the whole trouble did not seem to last more than half an hour from the time he was seized until he died. He had, according to his custom, taken tea in the garden, and after an hour’s spirited conversation, went up to his study. At half past nine o’clock Mrs. Hering heard his bell ring, proceeded to his room and found him dying. Drs. Koch and Raue were called. Dr. Koch found his hands cold, but still he was perfectly conscious and said, “Jetzt sterbe ich,” (now I am dying) and soon breathed his last. His funeral was held July 28th from his residence. I went, with other physicians from New York, to attend. It was a solemn and impressive occasion. Memorial meetings were held throughout the world wherever there was an organization of homoeopathic physicians. The tributes paid him were memorable and lasting, they were
published in a memorial volume. And so lived and died this great man of gigantic intellect, who lived for, and loved, all
mankind.

His flower of love, long may it bloom, Wherever man may be; For he who walked with downcast head God gave him eyes to see.

From: Hahnemannian Monthly – Volume Two – January to December I917

About the author

Arthur M. Eastman

Arthur M. Eastman MD, was a member of the Minnesota State Board of Medical Examiners; President of the Minneapolis Homoeopathic Medical Society; Senior Member of Minnesota State Homoeopathic Institute and Member of the American Institute of Homoeopathy.

13 Comments

  • No soy médico, pero soy paciente y me trato con homeopatía desde 1975 cuando sólo tenía 25 años………………Realmente me ha emocionado el artículo. Felicitaciones

  • I am very grateful to Hpathy for this informative article. This article has created inspiration to me and to many Homoeopaths like me.I request you to continue to publish similiar articles in future. I know there is always a history behind every medicine,as with Sepia , Thuja etc These are also to be highlighted here. It will be a great inspiration to all of us. Once again thanks for this article.

  • What a wonderful article!

    Thank you for reprinting this and giving so many of us a chance to know more about this great man.

  • …what an extra fascinating article, refering great values of hpthy to its pioneers.and like he felt he owed to hanhmann, we owed to his great german soul as well.thnx………………..

  • As a practitioner perhaps we shouldn’t have favourites but I have to admit that Constantine Hering has always been an inspiration. His words have more than stood the test of time and more than that they have proved way ahead of his times in many instances. Reading this story has put another piece of kindling on my homoeopathic fire. Thanks so much for all of your efforts.
    Julia Twohig

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