Part III – Obstacles in Practical Medicine (1797)
In his article, Are the Obstacles to Certainty and Simplicity in Practical Medicine Insurmountable (1797), Hahnemann gives us some insight into that realm of disease involving errors of regimen to be corrected by an alteration of regimen (law of opposites).
Hahnemann speaks of cure
…effected by dietetic rules alone, which, if simple, are notto be despised… (Lesser Writings, p. 312)
[He gives the example of how a] deeply rooted scurvy [can be cured by] warm clothing, dry country air, moderate exercise, change of the old salted meat for that freshly killed, along with sour-crout, cresses, and such like vegetables, and brisk beer for drink. What would be the use of medicine in such case? To mask the good effects produced bythe change of diet! Scurvy is produced by a system of diet opposite to this, therefore it may be cured by a dietetic course – the reverse of that which produced it… (Lesser Writings, p. 313).
On the other hand, he emphasizes that diet is not very serviceable in the case of chronic disease.
Why should we render the syphilitic patient, for example, worse than he is by a change of diet, generally of a debilitating nature? We cannot cure him by any system of diet, for his disease is not produced by any errors of the sort. Why then, should we, in this case, make any change?
Since this occurred to my mind, I have cured all venereal diseases (excepting gonorrhea), without any dietetic restrictions, merely with mercury (and when necessary, opium). (Lesser Writings, p. 313)
Here we can see a further emergence from observation of the idea of differing jurisdictions for disease. Disease, for Hahnemann, already is construed as multi-dimensional and hierarchical, rather than uni-dimensional in nature.
[Hahnemann warns against too drastic a change in diet, and] if it be necessary to make considerable changes in the diet and regimen, the ingenious physician will do well to mark what effect such changes will have on the disease, before he prescribes the mildest medicine. (Lesser Writings, p.313)
There is a useful section where Hahnemann makes several things clear regarding geographical in?uences:
1. Any remedy works on the same disease regardless of geography.
What might be said of the Creator, who, having afflicted the inhabitants of this earth with a vast host of diseases, should at the same time have placed an inconceivable number of obstacles in the way of their cure…? (Lesser Writings, p.316)
2. The best treatment is to strengthen the person by destroying disease, thus increasing one’s ability to resist outside factors, often ones over which we have little or no control.
…I consider it much more practicable to dispel the morose ideas of the melancholic by medicine, than to abolish for him the countless evils of the physical and moral world, or to argue him out of his fancies. (Lesser Writings, p. 317)
3. It is true that a person living in a poor environment will be weaker than one residing in a better one, mutatis mutandi, but this is only a relative matter of health.
The sedentary man of business seeks at our hands only tolerable health, for the nature of things denies us the power of giving him the strength of the blacksmith, or the ravenous appetite of the porter. (Lesser Writings, p. 316)
Again, Hahnemann touches on the issue of knowledge (meaning) versus information (objects), and quality versus quantity when he states that:
I do not believe that it is the smallness of our knowledge, but only the faulty application of it, that hinders us from approaching, in medical science, nearer to certainty and simplicity. (Lesser Writings, p. 317)
The faulty application arises from the lack of knowledge of principles, that is, when to apply what rules and how.
Antidotes to Some Heroic Vegetable Substances (1798)
One of the most immediate problems of medicine was the anti-doting of accidental poisonings or even of medically applied poisons. Hahnemann criticized the tendency to a uniformitarian view of disease and the tendency of applying the rules of one jurisdiction of disease across others where they were not applicable.
From the time of Nicander to the 16th century…grand plans were formed by medical men for discovering nothing less than an universal specific for everything they called poison; and they included under the denomination of poison, even the plagues, philtres, bewitchment, and the bites of venomous animals…We now know how ridiculous these efforts were.
The more rational spirit of modern times did not, however, completely abandon this illusory idea of the possibility [of] an universal antidote for all poisons.
The efforts of our age to discover a peculiar antidote for each individual poison, or at least for particular classes of poisons, are not to be mistaken, and I give in my adhesion to them. (Lesser Writings, p. 322-323.)
Hahnemann then provided, based on careful observation, antidotes that must, by the category he gives in a footnote, be dynamic in their effect:
There are at least four kinds of antidotes by means of which the hurtful substance may be –
By evacuation (vomiting, purging, excising the poisonous bite).
By enveloping (giving suet for pieces of glass that have been swallowed)II. Altered:
Chemically (liver of sulphur for corrosive sublimate).
Dynamically (i.e., their potential influence on the living fibre removed) (Coffee for opium). (Lesser Writings, footnote, p. 323)
Hahnemann marvels at the ability of a dose of Opium to antidote completely the poisoning effects of a large dose of camphor taken by a small girl by mistake. He does not say so directly, but it seems that the effect was considered by Hahnemann to fall under the fourth category, namely dynamic, as later in the article he refers to these types of examples as such.
A Preface (1800)
In 1800, Hahnemann translated an English medical text with a preface explaining that he did so in order to show the absurdity of polypharmacy. Given that the original was anonymous, Hahnemann kept his comments equally anonymous, and enjoins the reader to simply judge of the content.
However, as truth can neither be more true nor less true, whether it be said by a man with an imposing array of titles or by one perfectly unknown to fame, the indulgent reader will please to regard merely what is said. (Lesser Writings, p. 345)
Here we ?nd one of the most descriptive attacks on the absurdity of the allopathic remedy mixtures, which situation seems but little altered to this day!
First, Hahnemann underlines that the past twenty-three centuries of medicine have revealed nothing new about the true action of single substances, much less remedy mixtures. Then he attacks in satirical terms the position of a presumed defender of polypharmacy, a tour de force in its revelation of the irrationality of this approach.
‘In a mixed prescription the case is far otherwise, methinks I hear it contended, ‘for there the prescribing physician determines for each ingredient the part it shall play in the human body: this one shall be the base, this other the adjuvant, a third the corrective, that one the director and this one the excipient! It is my sovereign command that none of these ingredients venture to quit the post assigned to it in the human body! I command that the corrective be not backward in concealing blunders of the base, that it cover all the delinquencies of this principal ingredient and of the adjuvant, and direct them for the best; but to go out of its rank and situation and to take upon itself a part of its own contrary to the base, I hereby positively forbid it! Now, adjuvant! to thee I assign the office of Mentor to my base, support it in its difficult task; but mind, thou art only to take it by the arm, not to do anything else of thine own accord, or dare to act contrary to the order which I have given to the base to cause a certain amount of vomiting; but thou must by no means presume in thine ignorance to undertake any expeditions in thine own account, or to do anything different form the intention of the base; thou must, though thou art something quite different, act entirely in concert with it; that I command thee! I assign to you all conjointly the highly important business of the whole expedition: see that you expel the impure humours from the blood, without touching in the slightest degree the good ones; alter, transform, what you discover to be in improper combination, in a morbid state.’ (Lesser Writings, p. 346)
Hahnemann goes on in this vein for several pages, satirizing the presumed ability of the allopath to prescribe several remedies without knowing their effect on the organism, both individually and collectively. We can see that Hahnemann’s attack is essentially based upon the prevailing practice of taking the collective symptoms of a disease and dividing them up, according to arbitrary categories (vomiting, diarrhea, fever).
But what if all the symptoms proceeded from one cause, as is almost always the case, and there were one single drug that would meet all these symptoms? (Lesser Writings, p.348)
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Rudi Verspoor is Dean and Chair Department of Philosophy, Hahnemann College for Heilkunst, Ottawa. He has written extensively on homeopathy and created the only college in the world offering a full program of study in Hahnemann’s complete medical system, Heilkunst. More details on studying Heilkunst can be obtained from www.homeopathy.com.
Rudi founded the National Association of Trained Homeopaths (NUPATH) in Canada, as well as the Canadian/International Heilkunst Association (C/IHA). He has advised the Canadian government on healthcare issues, made presentations to various federal and provincial governments on homeopathy, and has written for various journals as well as lectured around the world.
His publications include: Homeopathy Renewed, A Sequential Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Illness (with Patty Smith); A Time for Healing; Homeopathy Re-examined: Beyond the Classical Paradigm (with Steven Decker); The Dynamic Legacy: Hahnemann from Homeopathy to Heilkunst (with Steven Decker)
The website at www.heilkunst.com has more articles and resources about Heilkunst.